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Board for 2014-15

The term for the 2013-14 board of directors ends June 30, 2014. At the annual conference on June 19 we elected the board for 2014-15. Please welcome them!

Chair: Sarah Howard
Chair emerita: Rebecca Noran
Vice chair: Stuart Robbins-Butcher
At-large director: Kit Breshears
Treasurer: Andrea Jacovitch
Recorder/Scribe: OPEN--If interested contact Sarah Howard, 
Awards chairs: JoAnne Makela and Echo Martin
Membership chairs: Patrice Johnson and Tiffany Clemens
Programs chairs: Laura Krueger Vitko and Holly Santiago
Conference chairs: Pam Belding and Lindsay Bork
Communications and Technology chairs: Lani Payette, Mandee Nguyen, Honey VanderVenter

Message from the chair - Summer 2014

Hello communicators!

That was some conference, right? It's not every day I get to see my design author hero, Ellen Lupton; get inspired by artist Seitu Jones; and hear a compelling talk and then musical performance by Dessa, joined by Aby Wolf. And it's not every day all these communicators emerge from the U's nooks and crannies, and beyond. It's my favorite thing about the conference each year.The people.

The conference is a great example of what professionals like all of you can make happen. We are an engaged group. Like past year's themes, we're good at "making something out of nothing," "making our case," seeing "the big picture," and exploring "unchartered territory."

Our theme this year was "craft the future" and we certainly did. A lot went down in 2013-14:

9 monthly programs of relevant content, with around 30 peopleconsistently attending 
Collaborations: Web People, PCMC, OIT, Portal... 
Events Circle launched: 3 programs + monthly brownbags

425 members at our peak
33 members profiled on the blog 
Monthly member newsletter 
Monthly Mixers at Campus Club

200+ RSVPs for 2nd year: Member Appreciation Event and Awards Celebration at the Weisman Art Museum

34 awards given | 144 awards submitted, up 10% from 2013 |New awards categories introduced to better reflect the work of communicators today | Innovator award introduced | Improved submission process! | 2nd year of online voting for Mike (people's choice)

Listserv » now Google group | New, improved website planning underway 

Am I a member? No guessing needed. Members can check their last renew and join dates online!

1 awesome conference | 3 keynotes | 202 registeredparticipants

Letterpress coasters created, nachos consumed, connections made: Many, many, many!

This is my last issue of the newsletter as your chair, and I'd like to welcome your new chair for 2014-15Sarah Howard. Sarah was chair of the programs committee this past year and she was the Communicators Forum 2013 Volunteer of the Year, as a member of the programs committee. Monthly programs are core to what we offer members. Sarah has shown great leadership to find relevant programming for all of us. She's a true blue communicator and I'm excited to be on her board of directors team this upcoming year.

In the conference program I included a quote from Charles Eames, half of the inspirational, design innovator team with his wife, Ray:

"Choose your corner, pick away at it carefully, intensely, and to the best of your ability and that way you might change the world."

This has always resonated with me as a communications professional at the U. It's not always bounteous, glamorous, notorious, and glorious on the grassy knoll. Our buildings can be old, cracking, stinky. People don't get what we do, often. Editing an article in an alumni magazine or drafting how-to content for a web page might not bring fame and yachts. We can't always get the U's great research on the cover of Newsweek, but we get it in front of people who matter. We target. We accomplish. Looking at this year's award winners at the member event, I was impressed with all the content we cover and the range of what we do, discover, and deliver as communicators at the U.

So go forth, stronger together: Make it happen. Make connections. Make sense of it all. Make a difference.

Thanks for all you do,
Rebecca Noran, chair, Communicators Forum, 2013-14

Message from the chair - April 2014

Hello communicators!

Communications professionals show amazing versatility at work. We can get pretty crafty on our own time, too! 

The conference committee has created an opportunity to showcase the talents of Communicators Forum members and U employees at this year's annual conference, June 19, to complement this year's theme "Craft the future." 

Along with the standard vendors, there will be a "craft vendor" space available. More information will be sent soon to members through the email list ( Printmaker, knitter, jewelry artist? It's your chance to show your colleagues another side!

Speaking of conference, in addition to lining up three amazing keynote speakers, the committee has filled the vendor fair, secured an all-day coffee supply, and is honing in on diverse, engaging sessions. And they have a special treat: All registered conference attendees will receive a free Dessa CD.

Conference registration to come later in April or in early May. Need to get budget approval now? Cost is $120 for members, $160 for non-members. (Membership is $40, and you can join any time--it's not tied to conference registration like it used to be.) 

Rebecca Noran, chair, Communicators Forum, 2013-14

Do I need to renew?

With the member drive email going out recently, we've received a number of questions from members about whether they need to renew. Here's how to check. Did you receive this newsletter? If yes, then you should be set. If it feels like you haven't received Communicators Forum emails or the newsletter recently, you can always check the member list. Want to be sure? Email and ask.
The submission period is now open to enter the University of Minnesota 2014 Maroon & Gold Awards for Communications Excellence. The deadline for all submissions is 3 p.m., Friday, March 21.

Submit entries to the form on Submittable.

There is no cost to enter. Entries must be submitted by a University of Minnesota Communicators Forum member who is a member of the project team. Any work created and used by the University of Minnesota between March 1, 2013 and February 28, 2014 is eligible. Submission period is March 3-21, 2014.

This year, the submission form requires a digital file [PDF] of your entry to accompany your submission for verification purposes.

Awards will be presented at the annual Communicators Forum Member Appreciation Event, May 28, 2014, 3-6 p.m., Weisman Art Museum.

For more information and directions on how to enter, visit the awards section of the Communicators Forum website.

Please direct submission or other awards questions to awards committee member Echo Martin at

Message from the chair - March 2014

Hello communicators!

March is awards time for the Communicators Forum. We are excited to offer a number of new categories this year, revised to reflect the work communicators at the University of Minnesota are doing these days, including a new innovator category.

There is no cost for members to enter their work, so go for it! Submissions are due Friday, March 21, by 3 p.m. The winners will be revealed at our annual Member Appreciation Event and Awards Celebration at the Weisman Art Museum, May 28, 3-6 p.m.

It's also time to start planning who will lead the Communicators Forum next year: Who will chair and participate on the committees that make all that good stuff happen? Serve on the board? Do things like run the social media, edit the newsletter, update the website, design materials, and so on? Leadership opportunities abound.

  • --If you are interested in participating on or leading a committee, please let the current committee chair know.
  • --If you are interested in a role on the board of directors, including social media, newsletter, and other communications activities, please let me know at
Rebecca Noran, chair, Communicators Forum, 2013-14

Conference update

Keynote speakers announced
Our 24th annual conference is right around the corner, June 19 at the Carlson School of Management. This year's theme is "Craft the future" and we are excited to announce the keynote speakers: 
--Ellen Lupton: curator, author, teacher, designer
--Seitu Jones: Joyce Award Winner, visual artist, master gardener
--Dessa: singer, writer, rapper, producer.

Request for vendors
We're seeking vendors for the vendor fair at conference. The vendor fair helps make the low cost of conference possible. If you work with any vendors and think they might be interested in this inexpensive opportunity to raise their profile with potential clients, please contact Karina Carlson at as soon as possible.

2014 Communicators Forum Awards 
Our annual awards competition, the Maroon and Gold Awards for Communications Excellence, encourages high standards by recognizing excellence in communications at the University. You must be a member to submit an entry. This year's submission process will occur in March 2014.

Any work designed or produced by Communicators Forum member(s) and/or published / used by the University between March 1, 2013 and February 28, 2014 is eligible. Submission period is March 1-21, 2014. 

We revamped the award categories (Gold) and created several new sub-categories (Maroon) to better showcase the excellent and effective work being done by University communicators. 

More to come, but start planning what you want to submit for these 2014 award categories: 
--Design: Expanded the previous print category to include design for non-printed items; applications, infographics, web, video, and display items. 
--Interactive: Expanded the previous electronic media category to include interactive blog, application, single social media. Coordinated social media is now a part of the Campaign/Series category. The website subcategory has been broken into three subcategories: website, web section and web page.
--Writing: Expanded category to include writing for websites, newsletters, and messages. 
--Campaign/Series: The least changed of the four categories, added coordinated social media.
In addition a new maroon award has been added in each of the four categories: Innovator. The innovator award will be given to work in Campaign, Interactive, Design, and Writing that uses new media, techniques, tools, or combinations of communication tools in innovative ways heretofore unseen by the University of Minnesota community.
--Illuminate: Best use of this year's "Driven to Discover" campaign theme: "Discovery Illuminates Everyone." Any communications piece can be submitted for Illuminate award consideration.
--MIKE: The "people's choice" award. Any communications piece can be submitted for MIKE award consideration.
--Margo: Award for the highest impact for the lowest dollar amount. Any communications piece can be submitted for Margo award consideration.

Message from the chair - February 2014

Hello communicators!

Working at a university there's a cycle that feels warm and familiar-from breathing the back-to-school air in fall, to the get-it-done time before "break," to the cold but fresh start of a new year and then a new semester when the buses are back to running regularly and people abound, then to the spring and summer of bikes, bustle, music, sun, and such.

The Communicators Forum cycle brings regular activity each month through the Google group, educational programs, and informal brown-bags and mixers, then a flurry of major happenings in the spring semester and early summer.

This issue of the Communicators Forum newsletter shares updates on these signature activities that are coming together:

Member drive this month
--Awards entry process in March
--Member appreciation event on May 28
--Annual conference on June 19

The volunteers on the Communicators Forum board and committees are excited to see these take shape, filled with anticipation like a tulip bursting through the frozen tundra of a Minnesota lawn.

Rebecca Noran, chair, Communicators Forum, 2013-14

Message from the chair - December 2013

Hello communicators!

There's a lot going on. All the time. The close of 2013 is near. So near, people. I mean, it's December, it's snowing and everything. Ever wish you could just press pause?

Communications need breathing room. The "white space" in design. The time to take stock of what you've done and plan for what's next, to focus on what needs to be done and you know, do it. The creative brain time to read an article, attend a program, watch a video (try this from artist Jeff Scher), sketch or jot or type ideas. 

Before 2013 ends and a new year begins, while you are go-go-go, go ahead when you need it to be a strong communicator (and happy human) and: press pause.

Up for some reflecting and thoughtful perspective offering? Take the opportunity to give feedback on two U-wide communications initiatives:
There's a lot going on with your Communicators Forum board and committees, too, so we'll take that moment to take stock. Here's some of what we've been up to in programs:
  • Thanks to November's program, more communicators are ready for an emergency. Maybe you missed the program, but you didn't miss out! Find the handout and recording from the most recent program emergency preparedness.
  • Monthly Mixer at the Campus Club is this Thursday, Dec. 5, 3:30-5:30 p.m., RSVP here. Save the date for the next one: Jan. 2. The nachos will be waiting!
  • Work with or interested in events planning? The Events Circle officially kicks off this month with a Dec. 9 program on working with University Dining Services. (And events planners know the value of an RSVP -- food will be served, space limited.)
...and in other news:
  • Awards alert: Look for Maroon and Gold Awards information to be announced early in 2014, including a new "innovator" category; submission process will be in March.
  • Our email list transitioned to a Google Group; email the member community at
  • We'll be doing a member drive in January and February to share the benefits of joining; a presence at new employee orientation continues throughout the year.
  • In the works: We've connected with communicators at Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester campuses to explore opportunities beyond the Twin Cities and better serve their needs, and have started plans to revise the Communicators Forum website--stay tuned!
  • Planning has picked up for the May 28 member appreciation event (Weisman) and June 19 annual conference (Carlson).
Can't make a monthly program? They are recorded for your post-event viewing pleasure, find recordings on the events page.

Have a great rest of 2013, communicators!
Rebecca Noran, chair, Communicators Forum, 2013-14 

Google Groups

Recently, UMCF transitioned our email list management tool from Listserv to Google Groups. This migration greatly increases the toolset to manage our email list. Added functionality includes options of reading and posting messages online or via email as well as a fully searchable archive of our group's messages. 

As a member of our email list, you can now unsubscribe from the group by going to Google Groups. You will also be able to manage how you want to receive messages from this group via the "Edit my membership" link on the group web page. 

If you wish to send an email to the entire Forum, please use the email address. To add yourself to the UMCF Google Group, click here.
Have you taken our survey? The UMCF Programs Committee wants to know what kind of programming you would like for 2013-2014. Take our survey today! 

Message from the chair

Hello communicators!

There's a Communicators Forum website, a blog, regular events, social media, and now a Google Group. So why do we have a newsletter?

To share highlights of what's happening in one juicy, scannable email: upcoming opportunities to engage, what's new on the blog, and what the board and committees are planning. We want to keep you in the know, and provide an easy way for you to share with others. Feel welcome to forward this newsletter to colleagues to let them know about the Forum.

So... what's happening with the Forum board and committees?
--The technology committee has updated the FORUM-C listserv to a Google Group, so you can control your own settings and reference past posts.
--The program committee has planned several programs -- including kicking something off this month for the Events Circle -- and is looking ahead for the year. Want a say in what programs happen? Provide your input on this survey by Wednesday, October 9.
--The marketing and promotions committee has been representing the Communicators Forum at the U's new employee orientation, and has started planning for the member appreciation event and awards celebration this spring.
--The conference committee had their first meeting to plan this year's conference: Craft the future, June 19, 2014.
--The awards committee is looking at revising categories this year to better align with the type of work communicators are doing these days.
--And more: Member profiles on the blog every month, special brownbag Oct. 24 on the U's new "portal," reaching out to system campus communicators to better engage, exploring an upgrade of the Communicators Forum website, design concept for the Craft the future theme, and of course updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the blog

And that's just off the top of my head! If you want to know more or get involved, reach out to the related contact on the board of directors

I hope to see you at an upcoming program and your tiny picture on Google Group messages. And, if you are looking for the place to be, where it is truly at, look no further than the next nacho-fueled monthly mixer on Thursday, November 7, 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the Campus Club.

Rebecca Noran, chair, Communicators Forum, 2013-14

Writing Daily

Are you, like me, sometimes overwhelmed with your daily "big picture" tasks, that you lose track of the smaller things that you should be practicing every day? Don't worry, you're not alone. As a copywriter and editor, I try to set aside X amount of minutes each day to just free-write. This is not always related to work, or personal life, or anything. It's just the practice of writing (and no, emails don't count!) that gets those juices flowing.

I recently read this article, "Why You Should Write Daily" by Leo Babuta, which outlines the importance of setting aside writing time, and also gives tips on how to do it. His top five tips?

1.) Commit to writing daily.
2.) Set aside the time.
3.) Start small.
4.) Blog.
5.) Shut down distractions.

Read the full article here, and happy writing!

Year of the Communicator Conference | The Benefits

You already know the advantages of attending the Year of the Communicator conference on June 25, 2013, but you may need some help convincing your supervisor.

Here are some tangible benefits of attending this year's UMCF conference:

1. It is affordable!
With airfare consistently on the rise, attending the conference means you won't only save on airfare, but hotel and food costs as well. Plus if you register before May 30, you receive the early bird discount.

2. Expand your professional network.
Because the conference is for communicators at the University, you expand your professional network across campuses. We rarely get a break to talk with our fellow colleagues and this is an excellent opportunity.

3. Keep up with the trends in the communications field and be inspired by inspiring people.
This year's conference has two keynote speakers that are industry leaders. Krista Neher is an expert on social media and will be addressing how higher education institutions can make social media work for us. Debra Frasier, author and illustrator, will help guide you on your path of creativity, something every communicator needs.

4. Attend together as a teambuilding activity.
Attending the conference as a team means you can talk about which sessions will provide you with the most skills and choose your tracks together. Creating a report for your supervisor about the sessions you attend also helps outline what you learned. Then you can discuss your day at the reception, surrounded by inspiring art at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery.

5. Gain topic-specific experience.
The strategies, tools, and skills that you learn can be taken back to your department and applied immediately. The conference offers you two keynote speakers and three breakout sessions geared to give you the tools that you need to be the best at what you do.

Don't delay and register today!

Thanks Google

Say that everyone has been talking about that television show. Your friends. Your coworkers. That friendly neighbor lady. You want to know more about it. Correction: You need to know more. So, you go to your desktop computer. You go to your laptop. You go to your iPad. You go to your phone. Wherever you are you get to the Internet and get to that Google.

This looks interesting. Thanks Google.

The Internet of Things

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By now, you may have heard rumblings about the "Internet of Things" and depending on the context, it can be defined in many different ways. Everyone, however, agrees that the emerging "Internet of Things" (IoT) will link everyday physical products to each other via the web. This will be (and currently) is done by embedding technology in an object in order for it to communicate with other connected devices. This will essentially create a giant digital information system. The experts at Harbor Research suggest that the Internet of Things will have a bigger impact on our daily lives than either the internet or social media combined, radically shifting the way that we think, act, and connect with each other.

"We are creating a connected world with entirely different touch points," said Glen Allmendinger, president of technology and business development consulting firm Harbor Research. "In the past, a company would sell a product, and it would disappear into a black hole. There was no way to know what anyone did with it or what other marketing opportunities existed. Today, it's possible to see how a customer uses a device and discover all sorts of opportunities."

Recent articles point to the IoT as the interaction and exchange of data between machines and objects, and now there are product definitions reflecting the same concept. Nike has been utilizing this technology for a few years now, with their Nike Fuel band that tracks and monitors your fitness levels, suggests ways to conserve energy, and connects you with a community of Fuel Band users.

There is almost no limit to the possibilities that the IoT will bring and it's no secret that marketing will be at the center of that universe. The Blake Project's Derrick Daye believes that the IoT will change branding in a monumental way. "It can deliver the brand promise at every point of customer contact and deliver a more meaningful relationship. It can help a company create a greater brand alignment across devices, screens and experiences."

Needless to say, the Internet of Things is here to stay. I'm anxious to see how the University of Minnesota will start integrating this technology into the different experiences that they offer. What will this mean in terms of recruitment, retention or giving? Marketing and branding? Only time will tell.


NetflixRentals.JPGI have been sitting in on the conference committee this year, which has been great fun. We did a huge brain dump of all of our session and keynote presenter ideas, and one of the committee members turned me on to Kevin Quealy, a Minnesota native who does infographics for the NY Times. I'm obsessed with his work.

His animations and static graphics bring information to life. This graphic on Olympic long jumpers uses everyday comparisons that most of us can relate to, such as the length of the free-throw line on a basketball court.

At a glance, we can see how people spend their time--and click on 18 different variations of the data.

And this is cool: Who goes to State Dinners, from what industries, and how many times?

One thing you don't see here? Lengthy copy with various font sizes, masquerading as "infographic." (Google "view our infographic" for more like these.)

How do you share information without text?

Minimalist story telling

You may have heard of Blaise Pascal famously ending a correspondence to a friend with "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter." Many writers identify with this because they understand how much time and effort is needed to convey complex meaning in few words. I'm no designer, but I'd imagine they face similar challenges when conveying meaning with minimal visual elements. At least that's what I thought of when I saw this series of minimalist posters for fairy tales. Scroll slowly and see if you can guess the tale with just he image.

Do You Code?

I ran across Code.orgs latest YouTube entry featuring the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and (among others) who discuss the importance of coding. Calling it the new human "superpower" - the video states that 90% of schools in the United States do not teach this basic skill. 

It seems as though the industry would go to any length to retain top talent by making "the most awesome environment" for their employees. This includes full service dining centers, rooftop lounges and onsite dry cleaning (leading me to think I've chosen the wrong career path!). 

Were you taught code in school? Do you consider it a basic skill when entering today's work force?

A banana nut muffin

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It happens to the best of us. You sit down to start a project or feature article...or a blog entry for the Communicators Forum and you get stuck. The blank page or screen is the biggest dam for creative juices. How can you get them flowing? 

Just start writing. You could just get out what you want to say and agree to come back later and fix it or you could just start with a stream of consciousness. 

Get up and go somewhere else. Maybe if Charlie had moved his typewriter to a less dismal location, inspiration would have hit!

Exercise! A quick walk around the block or a trip to the gym might give you a bolt of creative energy from just getting your blood circulating to your brain. 

Look at something completely unrelated. Watch a short TED Talk, open book of images, or read an article about a new science discovery. The point is to break out of the subject matter you are dealing with and come back to it with a new perspective. 

What other tips do you have for getting un-stuck? Share them here and help your colleages! 


StrengthsFinder: Helpful or not?

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Earlier this week, a few fellow marketing department coworkers and I took the StrengthsFinder test and went to a Human Resources workshop designed to help us understand our results. I tend to reflect a lot about my relationships, whether it be with coworkers, superiors, community members, patrons, or my personal relationships. I found StrengthsFinder to be a good exercise in reflection. None of my top 5 themes surprised me, but I found some of the suggested action items on how to incorporate my strengths into the workplace helpful, although some of them felt a little too much like a zodiac for my comfort, such as "Find someone with strong Command or Activist strengths to pair with." However, what I found to be even more helpful was hearing my coworkers' results, and how they interpreted or explained them. This allowed me insight into our work relationships, and understanding why certain protocols, processes, or environment details are important to different people. 

Do you think personality tests such as this are useful in the work place? If you've taken StrengthsFinder specifically, what did you discover with your results? Have you shared them with your coworkers/superiors? If so, has that affected the way you work together?

U Relations | Here to Help

Today I went to the UMCF program, Beginner's Circle: Working with University Relations, and discovered a pocket of resources for us as communicators. I am fairly new (one and half years at the U) and have had veterans tell me that you are not a real U employee until you have been here for ten. It was nice to hear that for some people that were closer to the ten-year mark, this was good information all around. So, whether you are new to the University or have been here for years, there was a little something for everyone.

The panelists were: Ann Aronson, responsible for marketing and branding; Laura Johnson, responsible for creative services; Chuck Tombarge, responsible for the news service; and Jay Weiner, the presidents speechwriter.

Here are some of the resources they provide:

New Service: ( Will work with you on a press release or connecting you to local reporters. Provide media training for faculty and staff. Provide council on social media strategy. Write a column from the president in your department/units newsletter.

There are four staff members, broken into beats that they cover:

  • Julie Christensen covers public affairs, access, engagement, philanthropy and diversity.
  • Steve Henneberry covers liberal arts, humanities, and video.
  • Matt Hodson covers STEM, research, science to industry, business, and agriculture.
  • Patty Mattern covers administration, athletics, crisis, and efficiency.

Creative Services and Marketing Communications: ( Provides consulting in collaboration with marketing and branding for marketing strategies, electronic communications, shared media, design, writing, editing, multimedia, and photography. The U Story on the homepage is also handled through creative services and ideas can be submitted to

The overall focus for University Relations this year is President Kaler's priorities that can be found here:

Do you have other resources that would be helpful for navigating communications at the U?

I am also looking forward to the next program, Expert Insights: Dave Pyle, Former bureau chief of the MN/WI Associated Press on December 5.

The Creative Process

Recently, I've been doing some research on the creative process to help describe to my non-design educated co-workers what it is I actually do all day. I came across this beautiful, informative, and short video of the very talented minds behind MINDCASTLE. 

I would also be remiss to not mention the (presumably) fabulous National Design Week last month in New York at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Launched in 2006, National Design Week is held each year in conjunction with the National Design Awards program. During National Design Week, Cooper-Hewitt's award-winning Education Department hosts a series of free public programs based on the vision and work of the National Design Awards honorees. National Design Week culminates with the National Design Awards gala ceremony. Definitely something to keep in mind for next year. 

Throwdown: "People" vs. "Faculty and staff" in web navigation

People who go to college, school, department, and other higher education websites want to find the faculty, staff, physicians and residents, students, and other people at those sites. Sometimes there's a link that says "Faculty and staff." Sometimes a link for "People." Sometimes it's something else completely.


Is it people?

Is it faculty and staff?

Something else?

It's a throwdown: People vs. Faculty and staff.
Which side are you on and why?

5 steps to maximize your membership

The Communicators Forum board recently sent this email inviting members to make it your communications year and take advantage of membership benefits and value.

UMCF email banner.Here are five steps to maximize your membership.

STEP 1: Complete this brief member survey by Friday, November 16.

STEP 2: Save the date for these signature events:
  • Member Appreciation Event - May 29, 2013, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis
  • Annual Conference - June 25, 2013, all day, Carlson School of Management, Minneapolis
STEP 3: Plan to enter your best work in this year's Maroon and Gold Awards, entries due February or March 2013 for work done anytime in 2012.

STEP 4: Attend a program. The next two are:
  • November 15, 12-1:30 p.m., 100 Murphy Hall - Beginner's Circle: Working with University Relations (panel discussion)
  • December 5, 12-1:30 p.m., 2-233 Carlson School of Management - Expert Insights with Dave Pyle, former bureau chief of the Minnesota/Wisconsin Associated Press
STEP 5: Give yourself a creative reboot and try something new.

Get to know the UMCF Marketing & Promotions Committee

Editor's Note: Our Marketing & Promotions Committee keeps you informed of the Communicators Forum's goings-on through promotions, tabling events, social media, and more. Get to know the M&P Committee with today's brief member profiles. We asked them the following questions:

1.) What is your job title and department here at the U? How long have you worked there?
2.) Favorite part of your workday?
3.) Why are you part of the Forum?
4.) Where do you find creative inspiration?

Here's what they had to say:

Erin Kober, Marketing & Promotions Committee Co-Chair

1.) Marketing Manager at Student Unions & Activities. I have worked at Student Unions & Activities for just over a year.
2.) Brainstorming! I love finding new and creative ways to get our message to students.

3.) To network across the University and get new ideas from people across all University departments.

4.) A variety of blogs, and of course, Pinterest!

Katie Covey, Marketing & Promotions Committee Co-Chair

1.) Program and Project Specialist at the Weisman Art Museum. I started working at WAM as a sophomore in college but have been a full time staff member for two years.
2.) Planning programming with our student group, WAM Collective. They keep me connected to student life!
3.) To make connections and learn from my colleagues across campus.
4.) The Weisman's galleries, tumblr, nature, and everyone's guilty pleasure - Pinterest!

Amanda Aranowski, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Communications Coordinator at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. I began working at the U a little over a year ago.

2.) Editing! I am a total nerd, and when I get to sit with my stack and a red pen, well, nothing makes me happier.

3.) To learn about the best and greatest in communications and to get to know other fabulous communicators on campus.

4.) Other campaigns, advertising, blogs, and, of course, from all of YOU.
Monique Dubos, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Business Operations Supervisor, Housing & Residential Life for 7 years

2.) Favorite part of my workday is working on projects for committees such as this one. One of the committees I serve on is our HRL sustainability committee. Last year I developed, edited and contributed to a newsletter highlighting our accomplishments from the year.

3.) I'm part of the forum because, through this and other committees, I've discovered a knack for project leadership and development that allows me to use my writing, editing, photography, and social media skills. I joined UMCF to meet communications professionals on campus, learn from them, and add to my experience that will hopefully lead to a communications job one day (soon, I hope!).

4.) I find inspiration in the people I work with - at work and on outside projects. I'm also inspired by the beauty of everyday life - I'm rarely without my camera!

Katie Evans, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Lead Events Coordinator, Institute for Global Studies. I have been in my current position for six months. Prior to that, I worked for two and a half years as Program Specialist at the Center for German & European Studies.

2.) Attending the events that I have been preparing for and making sure everything is running smoothly.

3.) I hope the forum will help me become more aware of university wide resources that are available as well as connect to other motivated and talented people in communication positions. Also, my position involves a fair amount of communication and marketing and I hope to be inspired by the forum.

4.) I love collaborating and communicating with my colleagues. People have such diverse experiences and I find that by talking with them, I often get new and fresh ideas through conversation. Also, working so often with events, I find that attending them and seeing different styles also stimulates new ideas that I can apply to my current position.

Kristin Trautman, Marketing & Promotions Committee Member

1.) Events and Communications Coordinator at the Technological Leadership Institute in the College of Science and Engineering. I began working at the University a little over a year ago.

2.) Designing something! Whether it's marketing materials, a website or a PowerPoint presentation I enjoy coming up with an interesting way to layout and display information.

3.) To take in (and hopefully add to!) the best of the communications community here on campus. I joined the forum earlier this year and have already been inspired and learned a great deal.

4.) I am constantly perusing marketing and technology websites and blogs for ideas. I also like to attend events here on campus and around town.

Editor's Note: How would YOU answer these questions? Where do you find inspiration? What prompted you to join the Forum?

Forum Program Update: Working with U Relations

We're happy to announce a Beginner's Circle event for November called Working with University Relations.

When: November 15, Noon-1:30 p.m.
Where: Murphy Hall Room 100
To Register: UMCF Members can go here and register with your x500

What: Have a story you'd like featured on the U of M's homepage? Need to get a press release out to media but don't know who to contact? Want to get your faculty in the media? At this Beginner's Circle event, learn more about the role of University Relations in internal and external University communications. A panel of University Relations employees will be on-hand to explain their role in getting U news out to the public and will be available for questions from you! Find out how to get your department on the University's radar and the tools available to help share your department's story with the Twin Cities media. Please sign up and fill out the participant survey.

UMCF Member of the Year Profile: Jen Peters

Editor's note: To start off a new academic year on the blog, we decided to profile the 2012 UMCF Member of the Year, Jen Peters. Take notes, folks.

jen.jpgUMCF: What is your job title and department here at the U? How long have you worked there?

Jen Peters: Graphic designer at the University Libraries since September 2008 (4 years, 1 month).

UMCF: What's an average workday like?

JP: The majority of my day is spent in my office designing. I generally have at least five projects going at once, and produce them from concept to completion. I often start a project with a few quick sketches and typeface explorations before moving into InDesign. I often sort through images from the Libraries' archives and special collections and collaborate with our exhibits designer, Darren Terpstra. I work closely with the Communications Director finalizing text edits and creating and sending HTML emails.
UMCF: Favorite part of your workday?

JP: I love starting a new project, particularly brainstorming visual concepts and searching for the perfect typeface! I am fortunate to work with so much incredible art here at the Libraries such as these lovely seed catalogs.

UMCF: How does what you do support the mission of the University?

JP: We work to promote our vast resources which ultimately help expand the reach of research: our expert librarians, the millions of volumes held in our collections, tools to enhance productivity, and programs and services.

UMCF: Why did you join the Forum? What role does the Forum plan in your everyday work life?

JP: It was a big transition coming from an agency setting into my current position, working with only two other people. I joined to network and gain a better understanding of the communications work happening at the University.

I have learned so much by volunteering on the conference committee. I have been asked to help plan events at the Libraries as a result. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to approach potential speakers - designers and artists I admire.
UMCF: Where do you find creative inspiration?

JP: Design and photography blogs, any type of magazine, Pinterest, plus the incredible local art and design culture here in the Twin Cities.

UMCF: What are your hobbies outside of work?

JP: Riding bike, gardening, photography, skiing - anything outdoors!

UMCF: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

JP: We (my husband and I) have a 15 year old music loving cat. When my husband plays guitar, she demands to be in the same room, sitting by his feet.

Faculty's First Press Release

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Check out this blog post by Emily Peters, a post-doc in I on E. She has some great "lessons learned" about working with the media including:

University communicators are there to help you. Get these communication experts involved as soon as you suspect your research may draw media attention. These people not only are trained journalists, but also work with scientists all the time. They understand how hard it can be to translate years of complicated research into a few sound bites or sentences. They truly want to help you tell your story in the most interesting, accessible and accurate way possible. They also serve as a point of contact and filter to the outside media world. Let them do their job and help you through this process.

The evolution of social media: We don't even bother to read anymore

It's all about images now, as this article from Fast Company notes. How do you show, rather than tell, what your unit does?

Best Times to Post to Social Media

I should be posting this to Facebook or Twitter right now instead of a blog. Why?

The Poynter Institute has just released this report showing the highest click-through days/times for Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.  Peak time for Facebook and Twitter are right now: 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday.

This will change how we schedule our postings. Have you seen anything different in your campaigns? Click through for neato graphs.

Bitly data shows the best times to post links to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Ever been put on the spot to produce a great idea...? And, realized that your creative juices were not flowing? Drumming up creativity can be a tricky thing, especially if when you get stuck on these hang ups (

That's why it's important to put aside some time during your week to exercise your creative muscles.... starting with this: 29 ways to stay creative (

Also, don't forget the UMCF annual conference is coming up July 26!  And, we're pleased to announce that Beth Perro-Jarvis and Mary Van Note, Partners of Ginger Consulting, will be leading a session on creativity.

P.S. Check out this cool story about Ginger Consulting on Star Tribune (

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Screen printing. This is quite possibly one of the coolest forms of visual communication. Conveying a message or brand through images is compelling and, if you're an art enthusiast like me, more engaging than other forms of communication (when done well).

A great example is Twin Cities illustrator and print maker Adam Turman who tells the story of biking in the Twin Cities through his collection of cycling prints.

Check out how to create the final product in this
screen printing tutorial written by Turman.

And, plan to attend Turman's UMCF conference session "Let's Print" where he'll talk about the process of screen printing, but more importantly, he'll be teaching how to pull some actual prints that attendees can take with home.

Register by April 23 for the discounted rate.

Finding Your Niche in a Social Media Explosion

It seems I can't do anything in the communications world without bumping elbows with yet another one of the billion social media tools popping up these days. In the crowded room of businesses, college departments, and organizations all screaming for your attention through their various social media, it can be hard to decide what tools are best or applicable to you and your place of work. Here's a quick article on some of the newer buzz-tools out there: the new Facebook Timeline for businesses, Pinterest, and Instagram.

What's your take on these new platforms? Do you see an opportunity to use them in your workplace?

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Email marketing. It's a quick and direct way to communicate with your audience. But, when should it be used and what's the messaging like? Integrating email marketing with a broader communications plan (probably including both traditional and new media) is often key to its success. Also, writing engaging and relevant messages is a must for standing out in the flurry of emails.

Check out ten best practices for email marketing.  And, plan to attend the UMCF conference session on email marketing, "Having a Blast: Making Mass Email Work for You," with U of M University Relations' electronic communications specialist Pete Wiringa.

Learn about the conference agenda and session topics. Register by April 23 for the discounted rate.

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Social media is a constantly changing suite of tools. While each platform offers communicators valuable ways to engage with their audience and deliver key messages, managing all of them can be a challenge. That's why developing a social media strategy is crucial to posting successful updates.

Learn how to build a social media strategy in three steps and plan to attend the UMCF conference session on developing social media strategy. Rita Greenberg, interactive media specialist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, will present.

To register for the conference, click here. If you register by April 23, you'll pay the discounted rate of $120. Go for the Maroon and Gold!

Confessions of a Copyblogger Junkie

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I'll admit right now that I'm a Copyblogger junkie. Writers, if you don't follow this uber helpful copywriting blog, DO IT NOW. Seriously. Someday, after you've been twirling in your swivel chair for 30 minutes singing "la-la-la-la-la" after hitting writer's block, you'll thank me. Whether it's a headline that isn't packing a punch, an uncooperative blog post, or simply a complete lack of focus due to the unseasonably warm March weather, Copyblogger will pop up in your inbox with an incredibly insightful, clear, and concise article to pull you out of your rut. Here are a few recent articles that I've found incredibly valuable:

The 10-Minute Technique to Becoming a More Productive Writer On the importance of having a personal long-term writing vision in order to help you become more efficient with your daily writing tasks.

3 Simple Storytelling Methods That Can Do Your Selling For You On the power of storytelling in sales copy, broken down into the personal story, the historical story, and the "meet the guru" story.

8 Quick Tips for Writing Bullet Points People Actually Want to Read  On the importance of effective, readable bullet points in a digital, "Twitterized" world.

Enjoy, folks.

Millennials. Not so community-oriented?

A few years ago a Forum conference session focused on the mindset of millennials. We were told that they are into their group, the betterment of their community, being part of the gang. New research is showing that perception may be way off. Since many of us communicate to millennials (and work with them here in the Forum, :-) ) here's that article, from The Chronicle.

Millennials Are More 'Generation Me' Than 'Generation We,' Study Finds

Millennials, the generation of young Americans born after 1982, may not be the caring, socially conscious environmentalists some have portrayed them to be, according to a study described in the new issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study, which compares the traits of young people in high school and entering college today with those of baby boomers and Gen X'ers at the same age from 1966 to 2009, shows an increasing trend of valuing money, image, and fame more than inherent principles like self-acceptance, affiliation, and community. "The results generally support the 'Generation Me' view of generational differences rather than the 'Generation We,'" the study's authors write in a report published today, "Generational Differences in Young Adults' Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation."

Continue reading

A Beginner's Twitter Guide to Domination in Five Steps

As the new Marketing & Promotions Chair for the Communicators Forum, I've been having fun diving into the depths of Communicators Forum social media, especially Twitter. Social media has become an unexpected passion of mine over the last year or so, with daily use of it for my day job at Northrop Concerts and Lectures, and my side project, the literary website Hazel & Wren.

I've learned mostly by trial and error, and by watching and learning from expert tweeps as they grow with their following and gain momentum for their business or organization. But perhaps the most helpful for me are simple guidelines from other users that pop up in blog posts, articles, and more all over the internet, such as this one, which I stumbled upon last week, and passed on through the UMCF Twitter channel. And, as a bonus, here's a quick look at some things I've learned over the last year or so in my own guide: A Beginner's Twitter Guide to Domination in Five Steps. (Brace yourselves for the power of this knowledge.)

A Beginner's Twitter Guide to Domination in Five Steps:

1.) Follow like-minded people. This is the number one step to exponentially increase your number of followers. Search hashtags and topics to see who is talking about them, and follow them. Or, even better yet, find another organization similar in cause to you, and start following who they follow. Not everyone will follow you back, but the surprising majority do. (This means your description and recent tweets better be stellar, so these people are intrigued at first glance.)

2.) Curate lists.
This has been the most helpful for me to not only more easily find quality content, but also for organizing my approach and to make sure that I'm diversifying my tweets. If you're unfamiliar with lists, what this means is that you create segmented categories of Twitter accounts that you follow, based on their content and/or area of interest. For example, I have a list for the Communicators Forum called "University Departments." Another could be called "Communications Publications." That way, you can just view the feed from that list's sources specifically, to narrow down and focus the constant stream of information coming in. You can make these lists public or private, and can call them whatever makes the most sense to you. These take time to curate, but are so worth it.

3.) Be smart with your retweets
. Don't get overly click-happy with that retweet button. Yes, it's just so easy, but doing that too often can make it seem like you don't have any original content or thought, or, that you're just plain lazy. If you're going to retweet something, switch it up more often than not. Copy and paste the tweet into your own post, tag the owner with RT, and preface it with some your own commentary. This could be something as simple as "Especially agree with rule #3 RT @umcf: The Official Rules of Twitter Domination http://LINK_HERE". You can also start over completely with your own original tweet, and just tag whoever originally posted the link by ending your post with: "(via @umcf)." Just remember: your followers want to know what YOU (whether you are an individual, or the voice of an organization) think, not how many posts you can retweet in a minute.

4.) Use short links for original content. Here at the University, we have a fantastic link shortener, Why use short links for original content (i.e. your organization's blog posts, events, etc) specifically? Stats, my friends, stats. Through short links (and others) you can then track who is clicking that specific link, and where those paths to your original content are starting from (Twitter, Facebook, emails, etc). This can be incredibly helpful when figuring out where your audience is getting their information. There are other link shortening services outside of the University, but many of them you have to pay for, especially if you want to customize your short links.

5.) Tweet at least 3-5 times a day. From what I've heard, tweeting about five times a day  (and not all at once) yields the most effective results. At that rate, you're not pushing people off the edge with endless tweets about your oh-so-amazing breakfast sandwich, and you're also making following you worthwhile with daily updates and insights. For some organizations, it can be tough to get up to five tweets per day, but just work in that direction. This doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) solely original content. The main purpose of Twitter is to embrace and engage with your community, whatever it is. Retweet insightful posts from fellow professionals, engage with your followers by asking questions and starting conversations, seek out articles and sources related to your field or area of interest, and share it all with your community.

That's all for now, folks. Happy tweeting, and may the force be with you.

Valentine's Day & Branding

A few marketing communication lessons, in the form of a link round-up, surrounding Valentine's Day and branding.

The brand of your business is just a word until people come along and give it meaning.

Real brand love, like in life, is reserved for a special level of brand engagement and emotional impact.

Creating an emotional appeal with storytelling makes messages stronger.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Telling a story. Or, "What Grog done."

A presentation on Feb. 8 at Walter Library brought Matt Jennings and communications professionals at several universities throughout the U.S. together via a web conference to talk about what makes a story. Jennings is a great writer, currently working for Middlebury College. 

But storytelling, no matter the medium--and these days there are many--essentially maintains similar elements. It likely always has, from the first time a story was ever told, somewhere long ago, probably in a cave. Maybe it went like this: "Grog got up tree. Hit the big thing with club. Surprise! Thing fall down. We eat. Full. Feel good now" (followed by, oohs, ahhs, and some small applause).

That's a story. Beginning, middle, end. Some element of tension. A plot. 

Jennings specifically called out a few key elements I found helpful to keep in mind when considering, first, whether a story is a story at all; and second, how to write it once you decide it's a go. 

First: is it a story or a topic? 

A topic, according to Jennings, is static, passive, and is about "things." "Bill Smith: Alumnus of the Year" is a topic."Alumni in Hollywood" is a topic. Topics by themselves are not stories, but dig deeper and they may become more. 

Elements of a story include characters, dialogue, plot, tension, and scene. Personally, I feel like you get the most out of dialogue and tension. Tension, especially...if you can find some emotional connection and convey that to your audience, you can transfer the emotion. That can mean asking your characters hard questions sometimes. 

A story, then, is active, about people (not things), and shows; it isn't all tell.

Jennings says to find out if you have a story, ask, "Why does this matter?" and "Will people care?" Then, find out the players and how to tell it. Think about visuals or artwork from the beginning, he says--about how to tell the total story. And when it comes to characters, he says, "Don't tell the story of the army. Tell the story of the soldier." Tell the story from a unique perspective and show the audience things they would not see otherwise. A recent story on Northrop Auditorium's renovation is a pretty good example here, as the photographer and I were lucky enough to get access to the interior during demolition. Do all that, and one gets the idea that in the end, you'll be telling the story of the army more effectively simply by telling the story of the soldier. 
Speaking of storytelling, tell yours. U communicators meet monthly to share stories. Next meeting is Feb. 9, 3 p.m., 510 Morrill Hall.

Superbowl Ads

T-minus 2 days and 5 hours until Superbowl XLVI. Are you excited for the Giants v. Patriots rematch, or are you like me, and more excited to see the new ads? I love seeing what creative advertisements companies pay millions for - sometimes the ads are great and sometimes they, well, aren't great.

Get a sneak peek at some of the Superbowl ads by going to the following link:

Happy Superbowl Weekend Forum Members!

Fun with Jargon

This is my most favorite Onion rail item EVER. Oh, how I wish it were true.

I love doing media training with faculty. I always learn a lot about a new topic. But about half the professors I talk to don't know how to describe their work in terms that the general public typically understands. So I have a practice that I call "Jargon Translator." As they talk about their work I jot down their $5 words, and then together we translate them to something a little more common. At the end of our training I give them a list of "forbidden words."

We all use jargon. (high-res, vector, phoner, embargo, CSS, EPS, etc.) We just have to pay attention to how our audiences are hearing what we're saying.

What are your favorite academic "forbidden words"? Please share in the comments. I'll list a few of mine to get us started:

Throwing your work into the ether: measuring value

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Everyone likes validation. Validation is tangible evidence that what you do is valuable. For those in a creative field it's essential, if only because for most of us the money isn't validation enough (because it's not enough money). Social media is a shining example of the power of validation. The Facebook "like" button is founded on the principle. Twitter's retweet is the same. Digg is a popularity contest. Everyone wants to go viral on YouTube. Measurement tools, metrics, and analytics are just another way to ask, 'Do people like us (me)?" In a way, it feels very much like an extension of high school. The hormones of it all are quite frankly making me breakout.

Let's assume for a second that when, for example, I write a story, it's not about me getting any sort of personal feedback--that it's about who or what I'm writing about. Now get rid of that notion. It is about me, dammit. How long would any of us keep doing something without once-in-awhile hearing an "attaboy?" Say what you will about writers having low self-esteem (it's true), but sometimes you gotta hear "good job" to believe it.

I asked a friend in a similar field about this, and, like me, he wasn't afraid to admit his deepest insecurity about self/work-efficacy. He said, "Sure, you're promoting events people might attend, making someone aware of research. They might or might not take action. But that's just too far removed...too hypothetical." His despair is my aggravation. And so, as in every situation, I first ask myself, "who can I blame?"

Assigning blame
First, I blame inadequate metrics. Metrics for online media simply aren't yet where they need to be unless you're selling something (and someone is buying). If your video of an intoxicated squirrel gets 7 million views, what does it really mean (other than being absolutely friggin' hilarious)? Who does it touch? What difference did it make in a life?

For this conversation, I reference a fantastic article on ClickZ about measuring marketing success (related), which says all I might hope to say. Suffice to say, metrics are and will continue to evolve until one day we all have high self-esteem.

Second, I blame you. And I blame me. Because it's not enough anymore to drop your work into the series of tubes (minute 2:12) that make up the internet, hearing only a "whoosh" and then...nothing...into the ether.

Solution: "Good job!"
When is the last time any of us read something wonderful and sent a note to the writer, or photographer? Why doesn't this happen? If someone sat down and told you a story in person, or showed you a slideshow, and you just sat there and didn't say anything afterwards, it would be...a very weird and awkward silence. Direct feedback can't be beat. Most of us, I'd wager, would trade 1,000 "impressions" for a direct comment any day. So next time you read something you like, send a note to say so*.

So, what are some solutions here, and how are you getting your fix? Do comments on Facebook do it for you (certainly more meaningful than "likes")? Is a retweet enough? Should the author always include a byline with an email address? Let us know in the poll.

*The irony here is that most of the time, if someone takes time to send a comment, it's negative. Nothing motivates quite like displeasure. Let's try to change the tone.

P.S. The Comm Forum does a nice job of filling this void with its yearly conference and Maroon & Gold awards program. And members are known to give the occasional shout out. But no one should need to fill out an application in order to receive positive feedback.

Link Roundup: Photography

Mastering photography is an elusive art. But, practice makes perfect and building photographic skills is an enjoyable hobby.

Here's an edition of link roundup on getting good at taking pictures.

-- 14 Ways to Improve Your Photography in a Few Days
-- 90+ Online Photography Tools and Resources
-- How to Stay Up Late and Make an HDR Image
-- How To: Master Smartphone Photography 
-- iPhone Photography + Social Networking = Instagram
The Washington Post Wants Your Instagram Photos to Illustrate Health of U.S. Economy

Buzzword (BS) Bingo

BSBingo.jpgMy office, U Relations, had a meeting this morning, and our new chief passed out bingo cards with some overused words on them. Words like, "Value-added, Win-win, Think outside the box, At the end of the day," etc... She encouraged us to call her out if she used any of them. Refreshing.

The concept, if you're unfamiliar, is to prepare bingo cards with buzzwords and tick them off when they're said during a meeting or speech until you "win-win."

The moral to the game is that the listener feels that the speaker, through the subterfuge of an infinite echoing of trite terminology, is masking a lack of actual knowledge and just spouting off a bunch of buzzwords rather than providing information or ideas of actual value. In other words, our chief was saying, "I actually know what I'm talking about. Feel free to question me on it." Refreshing...because it's actual, mutual communication. 

Just look at what one recent winner said about the game:

"Thanks Bingo creator for thinking outside the box and proactively creating this value-added knowledgebase that is a strategic fit with my core competencies and current client focused mindset. I can leverage our existing process and exploit the inherent synergies to expand the knowledgebase to cater to our result driven folks who will work 24/7 to put it on a fast-track. This cascading game-plan is what I call a truly win-win situation."

I'm happy to say that no one "won" the game today.

JFalk.jpgJeff Falk (the handsome fellow to the left, in full professional regalia), assistant director of the U's News Service, has some helpful advice today on getting University research and researchers in the news. First step: making sure faculty see the value of media relations. That's where you (we all) come in. Here's Falk's post:

"If your research is stale, if your classroom is boring, if your community engagement is ineffective, you must reinvent yourself, or, frankly, you must step aside," President Kaler implored faculty in his Sept. 22 inauguration ceremony address. "As you expect me to deliver on my job, I expect you to deliver on yours."

Here at the University News Service, we believe there are few better and simpler ways to highlight the value of faculty research and expertise than through focused and strategic media relations. Here are some suggested talking points to emphasize with faculty when discussing the importance of media relations:

--News stories on University of Minnesota research and expertise are read by state legislators, the governor, and Minnesota's Congressional delegation as well as citizens, donors and, when there is national publicity, people at federal funding agencies.

--Research results can help inform decisions on important public issues.

grant applications require public outreach and education, and there certainly is a need to improve public appreciation of science and how research benefits society.

--Popular press coverage makes it more likely research will be seen and cited by other scientists

--Announcements about grants, appointments, and awards rarely get more coverage than brief mentions in local newspapers. This is why it is important to focus on publicizing research findings and faculty expertise.

--Finally, popular press coverage of research often results in valuable contacts with potential collaborators. Most national and international publicity about the U comes from coverage of peer-reviewed research findings.

As faculty have been charged to push the envelope, we as communicators need to take advantage of this opportunity and help them understand the value and impact of telling their stories.

--Jeff Falk ( jfalk at )

Communicators have an uncanny ability to get to know people across varied disciplines and familiarize themselves with many professional niches. At the U, for example, communicators are tucked away in their colleges becoming experts on vastly different topics--from veterinary medicine to cultural studies, or whatever discipline it may be.

Although spread far and wide, it's apparent there is a thread running through our group that knits us together. Communicators relish in swapping stories, sharing information, and making connections. And we do just that at the U--especially those who participate in the Communicators Forum.

It's easy to forget that this inherent attribute is a skill that many people do not possess. As connectors, we have access to people that others may not. Using that opportunity to relay important messages is an interesting concept--think of the impact that could be made by stepping outside our traditional roles.

To me, it makes sense that making a difference in my profession and making a difference in the lives of others requires both excellent communications skills and the ability to project my knowledge to others confidently. So, complimenting my people skills with leadership skills seems like a no-brainer.  

Here's an edition of link roundup on leadership, career success, verbal communication style, and more.

  1. Steve Jobs and the Seven Rules of Success
  2. The Hazards of Confidence
  3. Optimism Scores the Extra Point
  4. The Conversationalist: Talking Without Technology
  5. Networking is a PR Mandate
  6. 10 Must-Read Public Relations And Marketing Books

Review: Promoting Strategies on a Budget: Internal PR

*Note: This review will appear in next week's "Preview/Review" column in Brief.

Sometimes when we think about communications we believe them to be the sole job of professionals with focused job titles like "communications specialist." But communications--helping others understand the value and role of an organization--are most effective and persuasive in numbers.

Anna Kucera, director of marketing and public relations with the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, had a clear message for the several dozen attendees at the Oct. 20 UMCF event, "Promoting Strategies on a Budget: Internal PR."

Everyone in your department should be involved in communications, and ultimately, everyone in your organization is anyway, she said. A conversation is happening--online, in coffee shops, and in backyards--people talk about work. Providing the tools to enable employees to lead the conversation, and to advocate on behalf of [the U], is ultimately a communicator's job.

"The people who work for the University need to be able to speak about what they do for the U and why it matters," Kucera said.

At her own organization, Kucera said "A lot of times our employees are the people best connected to the communities we serve. We want to empower them to get the word out about upcoming events, and our agenda."

Her advice was to train everyone, in the key messages (the value) of the University, and in the use of social media (by holding social media brown bags)--an inexpensive way to amplify 20,000 faculty and staff (and 60,000 students) who make up the U.

"Social media policy should be not only a list of what not to do, but "to do's" and "how to's." Facilitate interactions among employees. Empower them to reach out to their own networks in a way that positively represents your organization," she said.

Certainly food for thought as the U approaches another important legislative session, with tens of millions of dollars on the line.
One way to get involved is to join the U's Legislative Network, get informed, and get ready for action at the U's 2012 Legislative Briefing, coming Feb. 1.

Follow the U's new legislative network on its new Facebook page, and continue the conversation online.

Tricks (or Treats) of Volunteer Management

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I love volunteers. They help me set up decorations and signage, greet and check-in guests, and clean-up and bring supplies back to my office. Volunteers are like my extra set of arms carefully helping me execute multiple event tasks expertly.

In this economy, volunteers are highly desirable; therefore, we need to treat them well. It's taken me time to understand how to effectively communicate and treat volunteers in order to best manage them. Below are some tricks of the trade compiled from both my experiences and from the Donor Relations Guru Blog that I follow.

1. Have realistic expectations of your volunteers. Volunteers are donating their time; therefore, don't overload them with several projects or tasks.

2. Clearly define a volunteer's role. Manage their expectations along with your own. Define what the role's tasks are from the beginning and talk to the volunteer prior to your event to make sure they understand of what's being asked of them.

3. Appreciate your volunteers. I understand - we're all busy, but taking some time to write a personal note of appreciation and thanks to your volunteers goes a long way and helps to develop a relationship. Remember - a happy volunteer = a repeat volunteer.

To learn more volunteer tricks, go to

Have any volunteer horror stories or best practices (either your own volunteer experiences or managing volunteers)? If so, let us know. 

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  • Rebecca Noran: Looks like Sarah isn't the only one with something to read more
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  • Rebecca Noran: Thanks for this, Katie -- it's all about the STUFF! read more
  • Rebecca Noran: If someone were to take that prototype another level it read more
  • Rebecca Noran: I liked the infographic and the quote about never get read more



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